Food Safety Tips to Remember this Valentine's Day

This Valentine’s Day, be sure to remember these food safety tips to protect you and your loved one from any pesky food-borne illnesses.

Valentine’s Day is for showing the people who matter to you how much you love them, but much like Thanksgiving, this is a day about eating. As you enjoy a dinner at a new fancy restaurant or you attempt to take on the complexities that come with producing a home-cooked meal, it is important to be mindful of good food safety practices so as to avoid catching any pesky food-borne illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a single year a whopping 65% of food-borne outbreaks had been linked back to food that had been prepared in restaurants. In light of the holiday, and in order to promote food safety awareness, the CDC has released a few tips on how to stay safe as you celebrate with your loved ones tonight.

When it comes to eating out, there are a number of things that you can do to decrease the risk of you or your valentine catching food-borne illnesses.

The first thing that you should do is “assess the scene,” according to the CDC; this means that you should look for anything that shows that the restaurant that you’re eating at has been performing good food safety practices. One such way to do this is to look at the establishment’s most recent health inspection score. Public health departments frequently inspect any businesses that serve food to ensure that they are handling their food safely; these health inspectors will “check that safeguards are in place to protect food from contamination by food handlers, cross-contamination, and contaminations from other sources in the restaurant.” These reports can actually be requested from your local health department. Before eating, you should also check to see if the glasses, silverware and utensils that are laid out on your table are clean.

Another important tip to remember is to make sure that you order your food “cooked thoroughly.” When it comes to foods such as meat, poultry, and fish, they must be cooked at temperature that is high enough to effectively kill any potentially harmful bacteria. In addition, the CDC warns that “raw or undercooked eggs can be a hidden hazard in foods like Caesar salads, custards, and some sauces, unless they are commercially pasteurized.” The best way to avoid this is to ask your server if anything that you are ordering includes undercooked eggs and ensure that they are pasteurized. If they are not pasteurized, order something else on the menu.

According to the CDC, the following are some foods that may include undercooked eggs that you should be aware of:

  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Caesar salad dressing
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cold soufflés, chiffons, or mousses
  • Ice cream
  • Meringue-topped pies
  • Tiramisu
  • Certain ethnic dishes, such as Japanese sukiyaki or Korean bibimbap

Lastly, make sure that any kind of leftovers that you want to bring home with you make it into the refrigerator within two hours of being served. If not, they may fall prey to harmful bacteria that can cause a number of different food-borne illnesses that you want to avoid.

If you decide to take the alternate route and take on preparing a home cooked meal for your loved one, or are ordering delivery or takeout, the CDC also has some tips that you can follow.

Some of the most important tips to remember are the “safe minimum cooking temperatures,” which are as follows:

  • All poultry: 165˚F
  • Ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal: 160˚F
  • Beef, pork, lamb, and veal chops, roasts and steaks: 145˚F
  • Fish: 145˚F

Once your food is cooked, ensure that your hot food is kept hot; it should be “held at an internal temperature of 140˚F or above.” The CDC warns that the same germs that are known to cause food-borne illnesses or food poisoning are also known to grow faster when food is warm (between 40˚F and 140˚F). Using a food thermometer can help you ensure that your food remains at a temperature hot enough to kill these harmful bacteria. Similarly, any cold food should be kept at a temperature of 40˚F or below.

Again, anything that has been left at room temperature for over 2 hours should be thrown away. Additionally, any food that does make it to the refrigerator or the fridge within that time window should be consumed within 3 or 4 days to reduce your risk of catching any food-borne illnesses.

Remembering these simple tips during your celebrations tonight will probably be the best gift that you can give to your loved one.